What are the important causes of a cough?

Most children become ill and cough a number of times a year:

  1. Usually a cough is due to a mild upper respiratory tract infection (cold, pharyngitis or sinusitis) due to a virus and does not last more than 3 weeks.
  2. A cough may be due to a lower respiratory tract infection (pneumonia, croup, bronchitis, bronchiolitis and asthma). It is, therefore, important to look for signs of these conditions.
  3. A cough lasting more than 3 weeks (21 days) may be a sign of tuberculosis (TB).
  4. Think of whooping cough if a bout of couching leads to vomiting.
  5. Think of asthma if the cough is worse at night or after exercise. In bronchiolitis the cough is also worse at night. Asthmatics usually have a recurrent wheezy cough.
  6. A cough that starts soon after lying down suggests a post-nasal drip in acute sinusitis.
  7. The sudden onset of coughing after a choking episode suggests an inhaled foreign body.
  8. A barking cough is suggestive of croup.

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